Recently, our Skanska USA Building Business Unit President and CEO Paul Hewins shared his thoughts about the importance of diversity and inclusion at an event hosted by Advancing Women in Nashville (AWIN), whose mission is advancing and developing women leaders as business and community leaders while increasing collaboration among women leaders and the major organizations they represent.
Our Nicole Adams, preconstruction manager, led the discussion at the event, which was attended by women and men leaders from eleven large Nashville corporations, and Paul spoke candidly about the importance of gender diversity and shared how proactively fostering a team environment where everyone works together creates positive organizational change.
Skanska followed up with Paul afterward to ask him some of our own questions related to diversity and inclusion, including why it matters to businesses and what leaders can do to promote it among their own teams.
1. Why is a diverse and inclusive environment important for businesses?
For an organization to be successful, it needs two things: talented people and high performing teams. Talented individuals are imperative, but even more important is that they are part of a high performing team. To foster high performing teams, you must have inclusive behavior, diverse opinions, respect and trust. People need the freedom to be creative without fear of making a mistake or asking questions.
Once someone is free to be their true self and can rely on their team for support, a certain magic happens. At that point, your team is more than a collection of talented individuals, and their results will be much more powerful and impactful.
2. What led you to champion diversity and inclusion at Skanska?
It has a lot to do with my personal journey—my parents, where I grew up, working in the construction industry, experiencing my wife’s challenges and achievements in starting her own business, watching my son and daughter, who are twins, navigate their own journey to adulthood. My life experiences have led me to realize how important diversity and inclusion is for each of us to be our very best.
From a business standpoint, diversity and inclusion are imperative to Skanska’s success. This is reflected in one of our core values: Be Better—Together. We know that without fostering a diverse, open, fair, trusting and respectful environment, we cannot succeed. It’s my responsibility to make this company as high performing as I can by living our values.
3. How can leadership create and then cultivate an inclusive workplace?
Simple steps are the best way to start. For example, if you’re running a meeting, draw people in who don’t naturally speak up and manage those who tend to speak too much. When you bring all voices to the table and give everyone an opportunity to share their thoughts, you have inclusivity.
To cultivate an inclusive workplace, engage and inspire your team. Create a safe environment where people can be at their best, creative and free to ask questions.
4. What is a challenge companies face when it comes to creating an inclusive environment?
We don’t spend enough time getting to know each other. Through our personal experiences we make certain assumptions about people. It’s difficult to be truly open minded about a person and understand what they’ve experienced and what their attributes and competencies are. We have to overcome our internal filters based on our life experiences, and take the time to truly understand and connect.
Intentionally take a step back from your assumptions and really get to know your teammates. That will move the inclusive environment forward.
5. Why are organizations like AWIN important and why is Skanska involved with them?
The more individuals and businesses can engage with organizations like AWIN, the better they can become. This is true for Skanska, myself, and any other person or company out there. AWIN allows us to learn from one another and inspire each other to do better, to be more, and to take action.
Though Skanska is a global company, and we are spread across the U.S., our local markets, communities and people are very important to us. Partnering with AWIN to help advance women as leaders and support the needs of the Greater Nashville area is who we are.
6. Are there any final thoughts you would like to share?
As much as participating in this event was important for our business, it was just as important for me personally. The discussion in the room and the questions after furthered my own journey and reinforced that we are on a good path. It made me proud of the Skanska people who are engaged with AWIN and proud that our company appreciates diversity and inclusion as a core value.
More on Advancing Women in Nashville
In 2018, Skanska’s Mendy Mazzo, corporate senior vice president – national business development, partnered with several women leaders in Nashville to create an organization focused on gender diversity and inclusion in the Middle Tennessee Region. Now with 12 founding members, including Skanska, Advancing Women in Nashville is working to realize their mission.
As AWIN’s Advocacy Co-Chair, Mendy is working with Middle Tennessee State University to develop a study on women in management positions in the Greater Nashville area. This study will include a look at the current state and how it compares to other markets. She is also actively sharing her knowledge to support AWIN’s initiatives, including her experiences at Skanska and what we have done to promote women and gender diversity through internal programs like the Skanska Women’s Network.